Simple Syrup problem underway as we speak
First, a question of proportions. Alton Brown says 2:1 sugar to water which sounds crazy. Other sites say as much as 3:1 in the other direction.
I tried the Alton way and it was about as thick as, say, marmalade. And as soon as I stirred it, the whole thing crystallized out and I had a pan full of hard candy. I then added a bunch more h2o, re-heated it all, and now it's looking okay, but I'm not sure how long I'll need to let it cool, if there's anything I can do to speed the cooling process (drop in an ice cube or 2?), or whether this batch too will end up cooling into rock candy. Thoughts/advice welcome!!
How long are you cooking it? All you need is low heat until the sugar is dissolved- I've never found that it takes that much cooking. Just a few minutes after the warm warms up, really. It sounds like you might be cooking it long enough to start making candy, which is entirely another talent! :)
As far as I understand, it's not the cooling process that makes candy- it's heat and and the formation of sugar crystals (one sugar crystal starts a chain reaction and more form rapidly, as you discovered).
I think stirring it frequently while the sugar dissolves into the water should help, too- if I remember AB's caramel-making episode, he specifically says NOT to touch/bother/stir the burning sugar so that the sugar crystals can do whatever they need to do. Sounds like that is exactly the opposite of what you want.
Here's an easy recipe that covers the ratio and stirring:
Simple syrup is merely water and sugar, proportions depend on what your using it for. Simple syrup for bottling and use in cocktails and such is generally 1:1, but a sugar solution can be so many other proportions.
As far as your crystalization, the trick is to not stir it once it begins to boil. If you do, it will probably crystalize. Also, if you don't want it to thicken at all, don't even cook it past boiling.
As far as cooling, patience is a virtue. All you can do it wait, my friend, all you can do is wait.
The beautiful thing about simple syrup is that if you mess up it isn't much wasted if you start over. Good luck!
I've had that problem before. It takes a while to cool because it's so dense. If you are very careful, you can measure the amount you want and then put it in the cocktail shaker (if you're making a cocktail) and just shake it with ice along with the rest of the ingredients. I cannot tell even a modicum of difference in flavor. Just toss in an extra couple ice cubes and don't burn yourself when you measure it. It's hot!!!
regular simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water. . .the best way to do it is to place the sugar in the pan, add the water and swish it around with your finger to dampen all the sugar crystals - but don't manipulate it too much so that you have a ton of sugar crystals on the edge of the pan. Then you simply bring it to a very quick boil until all the sugar is dissolved - once the mix comes to a boil you are done. . do not go beyond that or you will start the process of cooking the sugar.
simple syrup is usually used for cocktails, to sweeten iced tea, and sometimes for sorbet - altho sugar syrup, which is a 2:1 ratio is more commonly used for it's ability to stabilize texture.
Alton Brown uses the 2 to 1 ratio to make a SUGAR syrup, the
basis for making caramel. That is not simple syrup.
Simple syrup is ALWAYS 1 to 1. Traditionally, it's 1 to 1 by weight.
This is a standarized recipe in every commercial and pastry kitchen.
I cup water plus 1 cup sugar equals 1-1/2 cups simple syrup.
Lots of good info here, the transcript for the Alton Brown Good Eats show called "Citizen Cane"
And, by the way, the recipe in the Chow article for Simple Syrup is wrong!
It is also a sugar syrup, not simple syrup. A little fact-checking could have
avoided the error.